History of American Exploration from 1770 to 1778

About the history of American exploration from 1770 to 1778 including explorations of Daniel Boone and James Cook.


1769-1775 "I want more elbow room!" was perhaps Daniel Boone's most famous remark. A woodsman since his boyhood, Boone (1734-1820) roamed Kentucky blue-grass country, sometimes alone and sometimes with companions--his brother Squire, brother-in-law John Stuart, and friend John Finley. When they had spare time, they often read Gulliver's Travels to each other. In 1773 Boone took his family and a group of other settlers over the Cumberland Gap on the Wilderness Road, with the goal of settling in Kentucky, but Indians ambushed them, killing Boone's son James, 16, and five others. This experience so terrified the group that they refused to go on. Two years later Boone achieved his dream of settling in Kentucky and established the town of Boonesborough, not far from present-day Lexington. In 1778 he was captured and enslaved by the Shawnee, who nicknamed him Big Turtle, but he escaped, traveling 160 mi. on one meal to reach safety. John Filson's book about Boone in 1784 inspired Lord Byron to include seven stanzas about the lengendary woodsman in Don Juan (Canto VIII).

1774 The Spanish, alarmed at Russian encroachment from the north (they had built a trading center and fort about 80 mi. north of present-day San Francisco), sent Juan Jose Perez in the Santiago up the Pacific coast. He discovered Nootka Sound and noticed currents from the Columbia River, but did not investigate because his crew was sick with scurvy.

1776 Father Francisco Garces found a route from Santa Fe to California. On the way he rode his mule along the rim of the Grand Canyon and visited the Havasupai Indians, who lived in cave dwellings there.

1778 Tall, blue-eyed, with a blunt though kind manner, the British Capt. James Cook (1728-1779) captured the loyalty and admiration of his crews and inspired other mariners who came after him. In 1778, as part of a longer voyage, he explored Alaska, approaching from the west after discovering the Hawaiian Islands. Aboard the Resolution, his main officer was the infamous Capt. William Bligh, while a sister ship, the Discovery, was commanded by Capt. Charles Clerke. From Drake's New Albion (the Pacific Northwest) they cruised north, mapping the coastline, to the Arctic Circle, where ice 12 ft. thick stopped them. Along the way, Indians stole Cook's watch and sold him oil that turned out to be water. In the far north, according to sailor John Rickman, the crews shot at huge herds of "hideous-looking creatures" (sea lions and other Arctic animals) until not one was to be seen except "such as were killed or so severely wounded as not to be able to crawl to the open sea."

1778 Though contemptuously called "peddlers" by the Hudson's Bay Company men, independent traders like American Peter Pond (1740-1807?) did much to explore North America. In four canoes, with French-Canadian voyageurs, Pond opened up the Northwest as far as 40 mi. south of Lake Athabasca in Canada, mapped it, then tried unsuccessfully to persuade Congress to sponsor an expedition to the Pacific from Lake Athabasca. He was one of the first to recognize the value of Indian pemmican (dried meat mixed with fat) as a practical trail food.

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